My husband wrote this lovely letter to friends for our dog, Hazel, who died yesterday:
I just wanted to let you all know that Hazel got her angel wings today. She hung on and fought for almost a year, yet despite all the medications, her seizures were coming too often (along with other problems).
We remember Hazel as fun and feisty. Her bark was both annoying at times and reassuring every time she scared the mailman away. Hazel was Rori’s loyal companion for ten years.
And up until she got sick, would sleep at the foot of the bed, and sometimes under the covers. She and I had some great runs up and down the blocks in our neighborhood.
She was a champion tennis ball chaser. And every time she would corner Boston, she would just nudge him with her nose…and he finally learned that she only wanted to play.
We miss her already.
Jeffrey, Rori and Boston”
(Boston is our cat…..)
It’s hard to say goodbye, and it was so much harder for me to make the decision to say goodbye.
I could have let her physical state decline and kill her, or, I could have stepped in and made sure she had a peaceful transition rather than the frightening one I could imagine from having assisted her through so many, now coming every day, seizures. I chose the second option.
I have nursed her for nearly a year, getting up every morning before I wanted to to give her medication that had already begun ceasing to work, cooking her food, adding in supplements and alternative medications and wondering every time if they were helping her or hurting her.
And, in the end – none of it matters. I struggle with – was I helping her “go” because I didn’t want her to suffer, or because I “wanted my life back”?
I struggle with “if only” and “guilt” and “responsibility.”
I struggle with my notions of God and death and what happens after, and who we are, anyway.
I struggle with the “angel wings” image that has always felt good in the past.
I struggle with so many thoughts in my head.
I see Hazel everywhere, and then struggle with the question of her imaginary or real presence right now.
And when I notice my struggle, I stop. I “sit with it” and see what happens.
When I notice any kind of “judging” of myself, or the situation, I stop. I sit with it and see what happens.
And when I’m in the middle of “something” everyday, and I feel like I can’t “stop” – I stop anyway. I let my hands down. I let whatever I’m holding down. I let my thoughts down, I let my body down, wherever I am.
Often, I feel incapacitated by tears, often, I notice something else in the park, or the room, and my thoughts and feelings change instantly.
And I’m only now beginning to notice that my tears come of their own volition. Without any help from my thoughts I consciously think.
That thoughts come from some place of habit, some of effort, and mostly, I see now, from the gifts my brain and the voices in my head are trying to gift me with to keep me feeling human.
**I want to recommend the lovely people who helped us ease Hazel’s transition, if you’re in Los Angeles:
I spoke first with Michelle, and Peter, her husband, came to our house. He was so wonderful, smart, tender, an amazing vet, and without pushing in any way, helped me feel right about our decision. The process couldn’t have been more gentle and untraumatic.
Everything that I discovered going on in my head and body throughout this whole year Hazel and I have worked through together since she became ill, I seem to apply to life in general – my relationship to struggle, responsibility, the build-up of stress rather than the conscious unwinding of it…
I notice I feel irritated at all the everyday things that “interrupt” my grief.
Perhaps I feel irritated at everything, always, that interrupts my “train of thought.”
I have such a blessed life, with a husband who supports and loves me unequivocally.
My instincts made me want to sob in private, behind my office door, and, instead, I decided to walk back into the living room to cry on his shoulder and allow him to hold me.
Whenever things shake us up, our world view, our life philosophies get shaken up. And, for me – there are two constants that always get me back on the best “train”:
1. What Is is What Is.
My only job is to love and accept what is, what has happened, and to do that – my moment-by-moment assignment is to notice when I’m judging. To notice when I’m blocking love that already exists from going in and out of me. Through me. To notice when I’m making myself available to love. When I’m making myself unavailable to love.
To notice what I’m choosing to believe about myself and about love and about life.
It doesn’t matter what I’m “making up.” The question is: What is that choice feeling like?
2. Life loves me.
There’s nothing dangerous or neutral about life. If I don’t believe that life loves me, it doesn’t feel good.
And since I’m making all this up, anyway, this is the train I choose to be on: The train where life loves me, and What Is is ALL there is.
Memories and emotions are part of how my brain and body work as a human.
I miss Hazel. I miss her face. I miss all the feelings I ever had over her whole life. I miss many things. And my assignment is to remember the lovely things, and celebrate them. To follow my urge to be grateful for everything life gives me instead of following whatever else comes up.
When I think unlovely thoughts, feel regrets, question myself, punish past deeds and thoughts – it’s my job to stop – and then let myself be taken on the Love Train, to where love comes first.